Personhood: Transhumanism

By Meryn Lobb

With the consistent development of new and increasingly complex technologies, a movement known as transhumanism has emerged. Transhumanism aims to help the human race evolve and transform beyond its current limitations, using science and technology to enhance both mental and physical capacities. Transhumanist technologies can range from simple hearing aids to complex virtual realities, or perhaps even something to increase the longevity of a human life.

For the average person who might want to improve their life and better their body, the movement seems ideal. But is it too idealistic? Transhumanist technologies can be used not just to enhance the human body further — they can also help those with disabilities become more ‘normal’. Oddly, however, these people stand very divided on the issue. Many feel that money is being funnelled into pursuing transhumanist ideals when too many still don’t have access to basic things such as wheelchairs. They also claim that by doing this, society is almost trying to force them to be normal, assuming that anyone with a disability cannot be fully happy with themselves and that anything they do accomplish is amazing and inspirational. The problem here is that society keeps trying to fix people rather than just accepting everyone as equal and ensuring equitable treatment. As author Eli Clare writes in a text about her life with cerebral palsy, the natural human body is ‘home’ and we need to be able to find and accept ourselves within it, just as it is. Some fear that to do otherwise could result in a movement similar to eugenics, separating people from their natural roots and involving full-fledged conflict.

Others, such as Stelarc, believe that we as humans are developing so rapidly with the help of technology that “the desire to locate the self simply within a particular biological body is no longer meaningful (and) what it means to be human is constantly being redefined.“ They are focused on moving beyond the simple notion of humanity today in order to improve lives and knowledge. Those with disabilities need not be different and inhibited anymore. Some people argue that transhumanism need not be feared; they have compared transhumanist enhancements to plastic surgery, in that everyone has a choice and may choose their own type of enhancement (or none at all).

Undoubtedly, transhumanism has the potential to completely change humanity. It has people concerned because they are afraid of change, and afraid of creating an even greater divide in the inequality that already exists between people. Who will be able to afford transhumanist enhancements? — the ones that already have the money to afford all the newest advances in technology. However scary the notion is, people need to stop seeing the transhumanist movement as something that abounds upon the world all at one time. Like every new scientific or technological advancement, things happen in stages, often slowly enough that there is more than enough time to get used to one thing before something new emerges— it’s already happening! Think about our world now from the perspective of someone one hundred years ago, or even fifty years ago. What might have seemed a crazy and terrifying concept then is now the norm in present society.

It seems to me that the best thing to do is just let transhumanism progress as it may and take the ‘natural course’ that every new concept has to follow. Yes, there is the risk of potential consequences, but what great movement doesn’t have the risk factor? Rather than trying to see the whole future all at once, just sit back, relax, and let things play out. Humans are inherently great at adaptation, and before you know it, transhumanism could be a worldwide phenomenon.


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